Meet someone in person, hear their story, and all the preconceived notions of religion, nationality and ethnicity easlily fall away. Our similarities are greater than our differences.
When the refugees landed, cold, wet, and exhausted in their hundreds of thousands during 2015 and 2016, the first act of the Greek people was to welcome them as their guests.
Greece was the epicentre of the migrant crisis of 2015 and 2016. More than a million people arrived by sea from Turkey in just 15 months. We travelled to several centres that were instrumental in dealing with the issue. In Athens, Leros and Lesvos we spoke to refugees who survived perilous journeys to safety. We also spent time filming in humanitarian refugee support centres, camps and education centres to understand the issues relating to assisting the 60,000 refugees still in limbo after the borders to mainland Europe were closed in March 2016. On the island of Lesvos, far from Athens, we spent time filming in the small fishing village of Skala Sikamineas. In the area around that village of just 120 people, more than 500,000 refugees passed through. Three people from the village were nominated in 2016 for a Nobel Peace Prize.
In Jordan, near the Syrian border, the Zaatari Refugee Camp hosts 80,000 people. Zaatari is a bold and inspirational example of what humanity can do to support each other when it works together.
The Zaatari camp in Jordan was created in 2012 in response to the exodus of Syrians forced to leave their homes and seek safety from the war. From a difficult beginning, Zaatari has evolved into a huge humanitarian experiment managed by the UNHCR — the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Its 80,000 residents live in a safe, respectful and well-resourced environment that provides schooling, and social and health services. There are 2500 refugee-run businesses in Zaatari and many people work in and out of the camp, contributing to an economy that is estimated to generate $20 million per month. We spent a week in Jordan and filmed inside Zaatari, hearing the stories of refugees and the range of foundations and NGO's that collaborate in the camp's humanitarian effort.
“Education is peace-building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is” — Kofi Annan
In June, we were proud to collaborate with the incredible people at Mosaik, a not-for-profit community-based refugee support center in Lesvos, Greece. Our project, Solidarity4Teachers, aimed to raise money to fund its crucial education resources. Mosaik was founded in 2016 on the principles of integration, solidarity and empowerment. It offers free, non-formal education and cultural activities to the most vulnerable people on the island of Lesvos. The dedicated language teachers working are fully qualified and offer invaluable learning to refugees who can develop and practise their English to integrate in their temporary community. With the generous support of over 600 donors, we raised more than $25,000 in one month so Mosaik could meet the costs of teachers for an entire year. These funds will support regular weekly classes for over 700 refugee students and also allowed Mosaik to open classes to some of the further 600 refugees on waiting lists.
Syria & Jordan 2018:
Before the war, Syria had more tourist visitors each year than Australia.
In early 2018, the Howling Eagle team are going to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to continue documenting the personal stories of displaced people and the organisations supporting them. We’ll be travelling to Damascus and other locations to see first hand how the Syrian people are finding ways to cope with the ongoing devastation after five years of civil conflict. The 11 million displaced Syrians account for the highest numbers of people on the move around the world today. Before the war, Syria was a stable, educated and relatively prosperous nation. Now, three out of four Syrians live in poverty. Half a million Syrian civilians have been killed